Monday, August 14, 2006

dead people see dead people

Another re-post here, if you'll permit me.

Book: Brief History of the Dead (released 02/14/06)

First I will say that several people who like fiction, have read way more fiction than I have and probably have better taste in ficion than I do (being as in general I just don't enjoy it all that much...) think that this is a really excellent book. I will take it to mean that it's well written, even though I personally found some of the decriptive details overbearing and distracting near the end of the book. In the beginning they seemed like vivid and interesting pictures, near the end it got old. However, as I said, I may not be the best judge of all that.

I did think that this was a very interesting perspective on something that everyone wonders about: what happens after you die? This author took inspiration that he probably got from the description of what an particular civilization thought to be the various travels of the dead (as noted in the beginning of the book) and put it into a specific context that is very relatable to the modern world. After a person dies, they appear in a city of the dead, and remain there until the last person on earth who remembers them also dies, and the cycle continues. In the city, the dead are reunited with people they knew when they were alive, and live normal lives, as if they were still on earth.

Meanwhile, on earth, a disaster of a grand scale is befalling mankind. I don't think the author specifically states a time frame for this book, but I will say that it's somewhere between 50 and 100 years in the future. Entire new security forces roam the streets just to watch for terrorists. Alarm systems warning of attack are already so old hat that people ignore them unless they continue to sound after several minutes. At any rate, as terrible things happen down below, the inhabitants of the city being to see rapid changes, and have only the overwhelmed newly dead to tell them what's going on.

One thing in particular that I thought was interesting was a short discussion on just how many people you meet in your life, even just briefly. At one point, one of the dead characters tries to count up how many people he was acquainted with when he was alive, and even when he hits the tens of thousands keeps remembering additional little pockets of people like all the mail carriers, or the extendend families of his siblings-in-law, or people he had a passing familiarity with at the first gym he had joined.

For a novel, this is a quick read. I was drawn in enough to want to know the ending and read it in one day, though I can say that I was definately more involved in the earth story line than the one in the city, even though I think the city plot and little side narrations were more intereseting in some ways. I was more interested in knowing the ending than following the story because I started skimming near the end, as I sometimes do. It's not heavy, but I think it's a fairly intelligent treatment of one author's idea of what might happen to our souls after they are done with our bodies.

I think it will have a slow beginning nationally, but look for it to pick up steam. I'm not sure its blatently emotional enough to work as a book club title (it doesn't explore a characters inner journey and eventual life renewal or any of that stuff), but I do hope it finds a niche among readers for just that reason: it's a fresh story line.

posted by ~e at 10:16 AM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

That actually looks really fascinating, and I think I'm going to take a look. My current "to-read" list is almost all kids-lit, so this will be nice to stick in there as an antidote to too much fluffiness.

8/14/2006 6:33 PM  

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